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TV Tropes Monday: Pyrrhic Victory

Tweet of the Day: Writing Excuses 7.12: Writing the Omniscient Viewpoint


As a war/combat/conflict trope Pyrrhic Victory always looms over the horizon of any narrative centered around war/competition. It is so well known that it is easy to ignore/misrepresent or exaggerate. It boils down to the following: a victory so costly that it invalidates the benefits of that victory.

Most of the time this trope is seen from the eyes of the so called victor but it ignores the actions of the vanquished. For you see, this is the idea behind most defensive strategies. The concept, also known as deterrence, is that any attack will be so costly to the attacker as to dissuaded him from doing so. No fortification will survive a determined assault forever, but a well built one will extract a heavy toll on the enemy. It is one of the reasons why many an attacker offered mercy to those who surrendered but death to those who defied him. Taking on a castle, or walled city requires  three to five times the number of troops that the defender has. The first force holds pins the enemy, the second breaches the defenses and the third takes the objective with the rest serving as reserves/rearguard. Strong defenses allows for economy of force by the defender, who can deploy the extra forces to relieve the defenders, harass the attacker or counter attack into enemy territory while the bulk of the enemy is tided down in the siege.

It also applies to successful guerrilla campaigns. By exerting constant  pressure on the occupier, a guerrilla can stretch the enemies resources, sour popular support for the occupation and raise the cost (in treasure and lives) over time.  A look at current events shows the results of prolonged guerrilla warfare on their targets.

To wit, there is much more to this trope that meets the eye. 😀


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